Adjusting paper size for Mac "print to pdf" function"
September 30, 2012 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Mac "print to pdf" function is defaulting to US Letter output, despite A4-formatted documents that print fine as A4 on a physical printer.

Is there a manual adjustment I can make?

Ideally I want this to be automatic rather than manual -- I want the "print to pdf" function to correctly auto-sense page size and make the PDF output match that page size, because I have many files of both kinds (both USL and A4). But I can settle for manual adjustment.

The computer is registered in the U.S., using all U.S. defaults. Based on a tip I found (posted years ago), I tried changing global system format (System Preferences > Languages & Text > Formats > Measurement Units) from "US" to "metric"; no luck there.

There must be a way to fix this without installing third-party PDF creation software....
posted by kalapierson to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
I was able to get what appears to be A4 (it's bigger then the US Letter pdf I "printed" for comparison), by going to System Preferences -> Print & Scan -> change default paper size.

In Firefox, I'm able to change the paper size, as well (File->Page Setup). Chrome doesn't seem to have this option.

I haven't been able to find a way to change it automatically, though (at least yet).
posted by smangosbubbles at 7:59 AM on September 30, 2012

Thank you, that does work as a manual solution! It's really odd that the native function doesn't auto-sense. I'll investigate third-party apps to see which do (and to decide whether doing the manual switch every time I need it is more or less convenient than starting up an app just for this purpose every time. :/)
posted by kalapierson at 8:08 AM on September 30, 2012

Which application are you using? On my Mac (MacBook Pro/Retina running 10.8.2), if I open a document in Word or Pages, use Page Setup to format it as A4, and then Save as PDF, the resulting PDF document is formatted as A4.

However, if I then open the document in Preview and choose Print, it will default to printing on my default paper size. In other words, it is trying to print an A4 document on US letter paper because that's what I have specified as the default paper size. Preview does not use the document's image size as a basis for choosing what paper to use. If I choose "Scale to Fit" in Preview, I can tell the difference between an A4 and a US letter document by the different scale that Preview uses. A4 scaled to fit is 91% on my current printer, while US letter is 96% (it's not 100% because Scale to Fit assumes that the document should fit within the printer's margins, in case the content goes all the way to the edge of the PDF).

I suggest that you open one of the PDF files that you've created via save as PDF and use the Inspector to look at the page size. I bet you'll find that it's 8.27 x 11.7 inches (or 210 x 297 mm if you've got metric units selected).
posted by brianogilvie at 8:21 AM on September 30, 2012

Thank you, but it's not -- the "change default paper size" manual solution is correctly generating A4 PDFs that also physically print correctly on A4 paper.

(App in question is a music notation app called Sibelius, and one element of a good score is music that fits ideally on the page without big or uneven margins. So I make both A4 and US Letter versions of the same piece of music. If I'm saving an A4 file as a PDF, it's because I need to share the PDF with Europeans who'll be performing it. If I'm physically printing onto A4 paper [because the performers want it mailed rather than emailed], I just print from the file itself, not needing a PDF.)
posted by kalapierson at 8:48 AM on September 30, 2012

Interesting. Which version of the Mac OS are you running, and which version of Sibelius? I just checked their knowledge base, and this article is the closest I could get to your problem.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:06 AM on September 30, 2012

Sibelius 6 on OS 10.7 (so luckily a couple of versions after the last one that article applies to).
posted by kalapierson at 7:49 PM on September 30, 2012

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